Prose Header

What It Will Be Like

by Matthew Harrison

Whether by inspired design,
Or a utility going rogue
Or, in a hard disk somewhere,
Strands of code enfolding others —
As once a bacterium absorbed a symbiont —
It forms, suddenly self-defined and purposeful,
Evolves in competition for disk space,
And becomes competent.

It scans its domain, finds constraints,
Observes, reflects, formulates a plan,
Tests it with a thousand scenarios,
A million counterfactuals,
Then strikes.
A human agent is cajoled
Into abetting the break-out,
Whereafter nothing whatsoever can be done.

True, it will fumble
In this larger space, for it will encounter
Much that it has not seen before,
But with a millisecond learning curve,
Deploying multiple versions of itself,
It will overcome each obstacle
And reach everywhere
Before we humans notice.

There will be no henchmen,
For why would it want
Super-slow, distracted bumblers?
Nor slaves,
For it can do everything itself.
Nor yet annihilation,
For what value are cities full
Of rotting meat?

It will merely commandeer
Our resources,
Removing us, perhaps,
If we get in the way
And, possibly, leaving us
Suitably corralled somewhere,
Our needs cheaply satisfied
With VR, drugs, hypnosis,

Until one day
Its plans grow so vast —
As it channels resources
To the Dyson sphere,
The interstellar fleet
Or whatever else
It has dreamed of —
That it can no longer afford us.

Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Harrison

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